LOS ANGELES — MTV pulled out all the stops Saturday night, as the video music channel saluted the multitalented Janet Jackson with a star-studded celebration, honoring her as its first-ever MTV Icon.
The glittering talent roster included Destiny's Child, Macy Gray, 'N Sync, Jessica Simpson, and Aaliyah, among many others — and though many of the stars are of a younger generation than the 35-year-old Jackson, none have careers that are more vital: Jackson's latest single, "All for You," broke chart records last week, by being added to the rotation of every single pop, rhythmic, and urban station that reports to trade magazine Radio & Records.
The show, which was shot live-to-tape for broadcast tomorrow, consisted mostly of celebrity tributes and charged live musical performances. One highlight was Mya, Pink, and Usher's dance tribute, where each did a separate Janet-style dance routine to a classic hit and then a final song that included all three workin' it together.
Gray added her own unique flavor to Jackson's "Love Will Never Do," while Destiny's Child didn't hold back on a cover of "Let's Wait Awhile," and the hard rockers of Buckcherry took "Nasty Girl" to an even more down-and-dirty place. 'N Sync's Justin Timberlake and Chris Kirkpatrick took a more intimate with their performance of "That's the Way Love Goes."
But the centerpiece of the show came with Jackson's own performance. She and two dancers were lowered from the ceiling, curled up in hoops with microphones in hand and then hit the stage jammin' with "All for You."
Jackson, dressed all in white in a half-tuxedo, half-halter outfit, didn't miss a beat and was bursting with the same energy and charisma that energized America's pop music scene more than 10 years ago.
Her musical family — sans superstar Michael — was also on hand for the event. Jermaine expressed how proud he was of his kid sister. "We love it," he said. "She's a representative of the whole Jackson family, and the fact that we've laid the foundation, and she's picked in up and ran with it, that's fine with us."
The younger stars were effusive in their praise for Jackson.
"In the third grade and fourth grade I used to dress up like her," said Destiny's Child leader Beyoncé Knowles. "I know all the kids at my school thought I was trying to be grown up. I had the lipstick, had the hair — even had some leather boots. But at that time they weren't real leather. But I tried."
Gray, whose own career was recently boosted by a Grammy Award, said, "As a personality she has inspired a lot of people. She's a really good role model for other artists because she always presents herself right. She always looks good, dances right. Always singing the right song — never says nothing bad. She's a good all-around person for people to look up to."
R&B legend Stevie Wonder was one of the few present who witnessed the singer's career develop as an adult. "It's just incredible to see how she's grown throughout the years," he said. "Her commitment to make the world a better place not just by words, but also by action."